Someone told me recently that they thought I was ‘interesting’ because I am so well traveled. I thought that was a huge compliment! Ever since then, I’ve been dwelling on what is it about traveling that makes someone more interesting and thinking about the value of travel to one’s life.
I have been traveling, and loving it, for most of my life. When I was a kid, my mother was a teacher and my father was a pastor, so summer break was for VACATION. Our family wasn’t inclined to Disney World or to “lay on the beach” type of trips. Instead we were road-tripping fools. Before I graduated from high school we had done a trip West that included Yellowstone National Park, the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, and Northern California. We’d done a trip East that included Cooperstown, NY the upper Northeastern states, and a couple of weeks on an island off the coast of Maine (twice). We’d done Washington D.C., New York City, and Gettysburg and surrounding battlefields. On the years we didn’t do big trips, we were heading to our grandparents for weeks at a time in rural towns in Illinois. Every trip was non-stop and every trip was an adventure.
As an adult, I’ve had the opportunity to do even more amazing travel. I’ve been to 49 of the 50 states (I’ll get you someday Alaska) and Puerto Rico. Fun-loving roommates and college friends got me off campus exploring not only our Eastern Tennessee mountains, but extended trips to Moab, UT, Canyonlands NP, and other Southwestern wonders. College basketball, both as a player and a coach, afforded me trips to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Prague, Ukraine, Dominican Republic, Idaho, and some of college basketball’s most iconic arenas. An adventurous wife and 5 years of marriage without kids allowed for a dozen 14ers in Colorado, a trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and numerous backpacking trips all over the country. Finally, a couple of jobs that put me on the road have provided even more travel opportunities all over North America and beyond.
Through it all, I’ve seen some awesome places – some fantastic, some quietly amazing. I believe that the secret to travel making you more interesting boils down to 2 things: 1) going places on your travels that most visitors skip over and 2) slowing down and paying attention to the people and places you are visiting.
These two things became very evident to me this week on a ‘work-play’ week of travel. Our family drove to Wisconsin to visit my in-laws for a week, and while the kids and Jessi were enjoying Grandma and Grandpa’s, I took off to visit with some clients. The night before I flew out, Jessi and I took a ‘date night’ down in Dubuque, IA, where we enjoyed a cocktail and watched the sunset from Timmerman’s Supper Club overlooking the Mississippi River.
This throwback to the 1960’s was an amazing place with an incredible view and an interesting history. Definitely not the type of place that most visitor’s make it to. I then took off to Tulsa, OK for some meetings, where I had the chance to see the statue below called “East Meets West” at the 11th Street Bridge on old Route 66. While I was there, I met the grandson of the man in this car who gave me the behind the scenes history lesson about the creation of Route 66.
When I got back from my business trip (where I also had the chance to explore Oklahoma City with some locals), I grabbed a car and head North out of Dubuque to the in-laws. On the way home, I made a side trip to a place I’d seen the sign for many times, but never visited: The Potosi Brewery and National Brewery Museum in Potosi, WI. This village of 800 is several miles off the main highway, which is hundreds of miles from the nearest interstate. What I found was an amazing little museum (pic below) that told the story of brewing in Wisconsin and around the country, some good food, and great beer.
What happened this week made me a more interesting person, I believe. I experienced some places that not only added information to my brain, but color to my life. I talked with people who were REAL, not tourist attraction attendants trying to put on a good face. I ate food that was prepared with care, not a microwave. And I spent time with people who love what they do and want to share it with others.
I could have just as easily stayed in the hotel, eaten at the Olive Garden next door, and driven straight to and from all of my meetings. Maybe I should have spent a little more time on email in my room or made a few more phone calls, but I didn’t. Instead, I chose to live well traveled and I am more interesting for doing it. Travel is what opens our minds to the possibilities the world has for us, but only if we travel well. So next time you’re on the road, find a way to get off the beaten path and talk to the people who’ll make your life more interesting.